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Friends of the show, doing cool things

Congrats due for Vancouver social media companies celebrating successes and launches

In the hubbub of our various projects, we've let two three interesting developments in our local social media scene slip by unremarked.

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I'm on a panel. (No joke.)

Rob at the Massive Technology Conference 2008

I'm hunkering down for a massive April Fools Day.

OK, make that a Massive April Fools Day.

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Toonblogging Northern Voice, day 1

Friday at Northern Voice is the unconference day, a self-organizing but surprisingly unchaotic event.

The turnout is impressive, and I miss getting a seat for the first session... which is cool. There are plenty of corridor conversations to be had... so many, in fact, that I miss the second session.

So I'm hell-bent on making the third session, which turns out to be a well-run discussion on multilingual blogs and web sites.

(participant raising hand) By 'multilingual', I thought you mean PHP and Python.

Session leader Jim DeLaHunt walks us through a conversation that, sadly, lasts only half an hour. We've only scratched the surface, but it's enough to make me want to explore further. I'm especially intrigued by the mechanics sites use for determining what language to present to a particular user:

How multilingual web sites work: 1) Server asks browser what language it prefers. 2) Browser says 'French'. 3) Server says 'Sorry, I don't speak French.

The early afternoon is PhotoCamp. Funny thing how it seems Northern Voice has always had a huge photography component. I've never seen so many digital SLRs in one place. It nearly overwhelmed the presenters...

(presenter behind a mountain of photographic and computer equipment) ...And if you could actually see the presentation screen, you'd see a pretty picture.

Miranda Lievers warns us about how strong overhead sunlight can cause a subject's eye sockets to be in dark shadows, and describes the condition evocatively as "raccoon eyes."

(a raccoon speaks) Actually, yer gonna get that effect no matter how I'm lit.

More than one speaker has a Facebook status update notification pop up while they're presenting... including one by a friend whose status line indicates they're watching the presentation.

(presenter in front of screen; notification appears saying 'Your wife has left you')

The last session I hit is Megan Cole's Social Media Mecca - a long-overdue conversation about collaboration and community among social media consultants in the Vancouver area. Good on her for bringing it up; I only wish there'd been another two hours to keep the discussion going.

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Join Kris Krug and me for "Social Media: A New Way to Market?" - Jan. 28 in Vancouver

I've never really had a chance to share a stage with the multi- poly- omni-talented Kris Krug... so I'm doubly excited about a talk I'll be giving on Monday night for the High Tech Communicators Exchange:

Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, MySpace … what does the social media revolution mean to marketers and communicators? How is it redefining how we communicate, connect, network and build relationships with customers, stakeholders and even employees? How are companies using social media to increase visibility and build awareness? What are the risks and pitfalls of using social media? And what’s coming next?

The January 28th High Tech Communicators Exchange will start the discussion on how best to navigate this brave new world as part of our business strategy. Local social media guru Kris Krug, President of Raincity Studios will share insights into how social media is evolving, changing the rules and empowering people. You’ll also hear from Rob Cottingham, President of Social Signal how his company has helped companies like Vancity ( and BC Hydro make the most of digital technologies.

A quick word about the Exchange: it's been a labour of love for Catherine Ducharme since 2001, and now serves more than 380 communicators, PR professionals and marketers in Vancouver's high-tech sector.

Which brings me to a post I've wanted to write for a while.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the immense service provided by the world's convenors – the folks who devote time and energy to bringing people together on common ground. Just in our area, there are people like Catherine, our friends Jason Mogus, Sarah Pullman and Jodie Tonita with Web of Change (plus Phillip Smith by remote control from Toronto)...

...the Northern Voice blogging conference team (Darren Barefoot, Kris Krug, Brian Lamb, Cyprien Lomas, Boris Mann, Dale McGladdery, Lori Pike, James Sherrett, Travis Smith, Julie Szabo, Roland Tanglao and Lauren Wood)...

and Gerald Bauer who pulls together our local Facebook Developers Garage (coincidentally, also happening Monday night – wish I could be in both places!).

There are many more... and just those few individuals, and the

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Passing the Hat: a cold weather campaign at

It's true -- all this snow is really very pretty. But it's also pretty darned cold, especially if you're living outside.

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A sense of place at Social Tech Brewing

Last night's Social Tech Brewing meetup (when are we going to start calling them brew-hahas?) profiled three very different projects with one powerful thing in common: a sense of place.

(Speaking of a sense of place: WorkSpace in Gastown was the perfect venue for the event. I loved it for BarCamp, and for this kind of meeting it's ideal. Consider them for your next event... or for your nomadic workplace of choice.) 

Up first: James Sherrett and, a place for people from the Pacific Northwest to "celebrate salmon’s contribution to our communities, and share their salmon experiences, stories, and thoughts." The site's backers (the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fraser Basin Council) are hoping that, when you think about salmon, you'll think about more than just beauty shots of intrepid fish swimming upstream; you'll think about how we can work together to ensure the wild BC salmon survives and thrives.

"If you don't have salmon in a watershed, you don't have all the other things that rely on salmon," James pointed out, including bears, birds and even the trees themselves. He said that even some Okanagan wines are made from grapes containing phosphates that can be traced back to salmon.

The site is already seeded with video, photos and text, but it will come alive as more and more visitors begin participating. And that's where place comes into play: each story that users share can be geocoded; the site then draws on the Google Maps API to plot maps of stories.

Kylie Turner, the site's lead copywriter and editor, spoke about needing to lower barriers to entry. "When you think of stories, some people think they have to have perfect grammar and be this wonderful, beautiful textual thing," she said. "We need to show them they can just submit a picture or a child's poem."

Next up on the seat of heat: Vancity's Kate Dugas, presenting (Why, yes, we did build that site. Thanks for asking.) She explained that the credit union wanted to launch an online community related, not to Vancity products and services, but to the changes important to people in the communities Vancity serves.

After going live in July, the site officially launched in September. Kate said there are now hundreds of users on the site, and the tone of conversation is great: no need yet to delete content or put out fires, and plenty of mutually supportive comments.

Several audience members suggested being even clearer on the front page that the site is not tied to product and service marketing, and that no information is being passed on to the folks in sales. And asked how to bring in new features without seriously disrupting the community, Kate answered, "by involving the community in shaping those features."

Finally, it was Rochelle Grayson and Jennifer Ouano from Elastic Entertainment, talking about their new project, MadeInVAN. They describe it as a "participative cultural urban guide", where Vancouver residents upload stories tied to specific places (called "stops" in MadeInVANese). Users can then compile the various stories from several "stops" into an itinerary for a tour.

Working with, MadeInVAN aims to target mobile devices – mainly with text at first – so users can find out about locations on the fly and get an insider's take on how the city really lives. It's based on an existing site, MadeinMtl, but will extend that site's static platform with social networking and location-aware functions, built in Ruby on Rails.

There's a business model to the project, with sponsorship and contextual advertising but also possibly (and most interestingly) with various local venues kicking in to host their own communities.

Thinking about each of these projects, it's a little funny: back in the distant mists of time (that is, a decade or so), the Internet was going to erase the influence of geography. Instead, we're finding an increasingly powerful – and exciting – potential for mutually reinforcing interactions between physical and online community.

Thanks to everyone who presented, and everyone who came – it was an inspiring, enjoyable evening. And check back soon for details on the next one!

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Northern Voice returns!

Great news... Northern Voice is on again. Now in its third year, this Vancouver-based conference draws an international audience that ranges from novices to leaders in blogging and the web.

This year, Northern Voice - organized last year by Boris Mann, Brian Lamb, Cyprien Lomas, Darren Barefoot, Kris Krug, Lauren Wood and Roland Tanglao – has moved to bigger digs at UBC. It's running from Feb. 23 to 24, and if it's anything like the last two, it's going to be fantastic.

If you're going to be in or near Vancouver next February, check back on their site regularly for updates – so you can register as soon as it opens (the conference fills up awfully quickly). And if you aren't going to be in Vancouver in February, well, compare the winter climate here to yours and adjust your travel plans accordingly.

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BarCamp Vancouver

BarCamp Vancouver last weekend was inspiring and inspired.

I caught John Ounpuu's introduction to Sutori, a site that gives consumers a place to share stories of customer satisfaction and, probably more often, dissatisfaction. James Sherrett previewed the intriguing AdHack, which will allow people to upload and publish their own ads for products they love... and reap the benefits if the companies behind the products like what they see.

Kate Milberry walked us through the history of tech activism, the wonderful Dethe Elza explained how you can wield Python to warp OS X to your will, Alex explained how you can use tagging to do the same thing to the entire world, and I offered seven tips for better tech presentations. For us the day ended early, but I gather from the blog posts I've read out that there was plenty more where that came from.

With so many conferences geared to monetizing this and finding venture capital for that, it was great to see something organized out of the sheer love of what emerging digital technology can do for people. Congrats to everyone who made this happen.


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Social Signal is hiring a Business and Project Manager

Social Signal is offering an unusual opportunity to come in on the ground floor of a business with the experience, reputation and credentials to go sky-high. If your enthusiasm for technology is matched only by your passion for social change, you'll find that the joy of working with kindred spirits can be matched by the thrill of helping communities use the Internet in ways they never imagined.

WHO WE ARE: Social Signal puts the web to work for social change, helping organizations turn online communities into a powerful force for progress. We have extensive experience in the non-profit, public and private sectors, and a large network of local, national and international colleagues and clients that you'll be working with on a regular basis. While you expand your professional network and skills, we also hope you'll enjoy being part of our personal network of technology leaders and community advocates in Vancouver and abroad.

WHO WE NEED: We're looking for a organized, progressive, tech-friendly person whose project management skills can make our work even more effective.  This fourth member of our team isn't just there to justify taking a four-person table during our meetings in the local Internet cafe. We need a boss: someone who can manage our business affairs, major projects and our team itself so that we make the most of our resources. The right person will enjoy our company's informal, friendly vibe but will help us balance friendliness with professionalism and efficiency.

WHAT YOU'LL DO: You'll business manage our business, project manage our projects, and prioritize our priorities. Your primary responsibility will be to manage our work priorities -- everything from client work to business development to financial and legal affairs -- to ensure that everything is getting done. You'll also help structure our client engagements by consulting on project scope, breaking down tasks, and assigning responsibilities. You'll know you're doing your job if everyone else on the team is clear about theirs.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • managing business operations including h.r., finance and legal affairs
  • project managing web development projects
  • writing or editing project proposals
  • identifying work priorities and assigning tasks
  • maintaining friendly, productive relations with our clients (including non-profit organizations, governments and socially-minded businesses) and suppliers (including designers, web developers and hosting companies)

WHO YOU ARE: You're the person who gets things done: organized and detail-oriented while keeping your eye on the big picture. You're confident, diplomatic and a born problem-solver, with a gift for getting along with people even when deadlines are looming or computers are crashing. You like knowing that the work you've done each day has made a real difference – to your colleagues, your clients, and the world.

You're passionate about social change, and your community or activist history shows it. And while you're not a programmer, you're as psyched as we are about the web's ability to make that change happen: your idea of excitement is mastering a great new online task management tool, discovering a smart progressive web site or writing a particularly sharp blog post.

Your real-world and computer desktops are as simple and uncluttered as a Zen rock garden. You're able to point to projects you've guided to completion, chaos you've turned into order, and cats you've herded into neat little rows and columns.

This is a full-time mid-level position. You've already demonstrated your capacity to plan, organize and manage complex projects; now you want to put that capacity to work in a role that will engage and challenge you.

HOW TO APPLY: Please e-mail a résumé, cover letter and salary expectations to by September 15th, 2006. Tell us why you’d like to work for Social Signal, and please describe your relevant skills and professional or volunteer experiences. We want to hear about your community, advocacy or public service experiences as much as about your project management and organizational skills and experience. We're particularly interested in hearing about your:


  • project planning and management
  • personal organization and time management
  • solid writing and communication skills
  • attention to detail
  • tech skills (Mac/Windows/Linux, software programs you know, web tools you use)


  • projects where you've been responsible for planning and coordinating (examples might include event planning, office management or web site development)
  • writing for work or fun, on a regular basis; proposal/grant-writing
  • situations where you've worked independently with minimal supervision
  • work that has involved client relations or working with the public
  • jobs that have required you to organize not only your own work but also to keep track of other people's responsibilities and deadlines
  • volunteer work for community organizations or causes
  • situations where you've gone the extra mile to get the job done


  • commmunity groups, projects or issues you're involved in
  • web sites you like or web tools you're excited about

Bonus points for:

  • having your own blog
  • telling us your favourite tech tool for managing time or organizing tasks
  • a strong opinion (pro or con) about Getting Things Done

Compensation will be commensurate with skills and experience. Please note that this is a mid-level position.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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